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Supporting children and students with asthma

This page outlines how education staff, care services, parents, guardians, and health professionals work together to manage a child or student with asthma in education and care settings.

Asthma emergency first aid procedures are also listed on this page.

About asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways. People with asthma have sensitive airways, which can react to particles in the air. The airways in the lungs constrict, the lining of these airways become swollen and mucus is produced, making it difficult to breathe.

Find out more about asthma including:

  • symptoms
  • diagnosis
  • managing and controlling asthma.

Health support plans and agreements

If the child or student has asthma, the education or care service should refer to health support planning for children and students in education and care settings to ensure that the appropriate plans and agreements are in place. This is in addition to the asthma-specific plans and agreements listed on this page. 

Care plan 

Parent or caregivers should complete an asthma care plan (PDF 247KB) with their child’s health professional and return it to their school, preschool or care provider.

Education and care staff who regularly engage with the child or student will need to know what is in the plan.

Training for education and care staff 

Schools, preschools and other care services must have at least one designated first aider trained in emergency first aid response available at all times. This training includes asthma first aid.

Asthma first aid for schools

Asthma Australia free online training Asthma First Aid for Schools is recommended as a refresher, and for education and care staff who:

  • are in remote areas where face-to-face training is not accessible
  • are awaiting a face-to-face session booked in the future
  • missed a face-to-face session at their school or preschool
  • have newly enrolled students with asthma.

Asthma awareness

The Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) also provides asthma awareness education. For training enquiries phone 1300 364 264 or email bookings.disabilities@rdns.org.au.

Emergency first aid

Time is critical when a person is experiencing an asthma attack. Do not hesitate to commence asthma first aid. 

Follow the first aid measures in the care plan or medication agreement, and contact emergency services if needed.

If the child or student does not have a care plan or medication agreement:

1. Sit the child or student  

Be calm and reassuring and do not leave them alone.

2. Give 4 separate puffs of blue or grey puffer

Shake puffer.

Put 1 puff into spacer – repeat until 4 puffs have been taken.

OR give 2 separate inhalations of Bricanyl (6 years or older)
OR give 1 inhalation of Symbicort Turbuhaler (12 years or older)
OR give 2 puffs of Symbicort Rapihaler through a spacer (12 years or older).

If no spacer available: Take 1 puff as you take 1 slow, deep breath and hold breath for as long as comfortable. Repeat until all puffs are given.

3. Wait 4 minutes
If there is still no improvement give 4 more separate puff of the blue or grey reliever as above.

OR give 1 more inhalation of Bricanyl
OR give 1 more inhalation of Symbicort Turbuhaler
OR give 2 puffs of Symbicort Rapihaler through a spacer.

If there is still no improvement:

4. Dial triple zero (000)

Say ‘ambulance’ and that someone is having an asthma attack.

Keep giving 4 separate puffs of the blue or grey reliever every 4 minutes until emergency assistance arrives. 

OR give 1 inhalation of a Bricanyl or Symbicort Turbuhaler every 4 minutes – up to a max of 4 more inhalations 
OR give 2 puffs of Symbicort Rapihaler through a spacer every 4 minutes – up to a max of 8 more puffs.

Asthma emergency kit

The school, preschool or care service must provide and maintain at least two asthma emergency kits. There should be an additional kit for every 300 students.

The kits are not for general use. They are for emergencies and as a back-up to reliever medication supplied by parents and caregivers.

Asthma emergency kits must contain:

  • at least 1 reliever inhaler (ie Airomir®, Asmol®, Ventolin®)
  • at least 2 single-person use spacer devices
  • clear asthma first aid instructions, including how to use the medication and spacer devices and steps to be taken in treating an asthma attack
  • a log to track usage of the reliever medication
  • stickers to label spacers and masks
  • at least 2 single-person use face masks if the asthma emergency kit is for children under 5.

Contact the 1800 ASTHMA helpline (1800 278 462) to order replacement spacers or masks, a replacement bag, or find out how to purchase the blue reliever medication for your kit. 

How parents and guardians help

Parents or guardians must:

  • notify the school, preschool or care service if their child has asthma
  • complete health care plans and agreements with their health care professionals and provide them to the school, preschool or care service
  • provide required medication to the school, preschool or care service.

If a medication agreement is in place, parents and caregivers must fulfil the roles and responsibilities outlined on the medication management and care page.

How health professionals help

Health professionals support schools, preschools, care services and families by helping to develop the care plan and any supporting medication and care agreements.

Disability advice and research

Phone: 8226 0515
Email: education.health [at] sa.gov.au